In recent years, high schoolers have seen a sharp increase in the amount of activity involving sports gambling. With the growing number of states legalizing sports gambling for ages 18 and older, access to sports gambling has become easier for those who should not be participating. Many of these teens do so through the use of illegal websites and use “bookies,” who are money facilitators in charge of collecting and giving out money. Through easy access and the possibility of large payouts while just sitting on the couch watching sports, teens are easily enticed by the prospect of online sports gambling.
Sports gambling checks many boxes that make it very appealing to minors. The concept of betting on your favorite teams to win money and the risk reward thrill of betting is what draws bettors in and has ultimately made it so popular around the country. However the risk side of sports gambling is what is so dangerous to minors. Minors often struggle to grasp the concept of money management due to lack of experience dealing with their own money. Due to a lack of management and inexperience it is common for gamblers to have a lapse in judgement and throw more money than they can pay. Another major issue that underage gamblers come across is a lack of money supply. While being in school and at a young age, it is common that many minors do not have a significant source of money through a job. Jobs during the school year are hard to manage and a few shifts a week at minimum wage may not be enough to continue to stay on top of their payments. These issues in money not only create problems for bettors paying for their losses, but often leads to bettors putting lots of money on bets while they are having a bad week to get out of their hole. When that bet misses, these bettors can be down hundreds of dollars at a time. An anonymous senior claims that, “there are times that on Sunday (the last day of the betting week) [he] has found [himself] betting large amounts of money on the last games in order to get out of a hole.” and continues that “this situation occurs on a weekly basis for most of his friends.” It is a constant cycle of losing money and attempting to win it back combined with the enjoyment that comes from winning a bet that makes it so addictive and dangerous.
Much like the typical battles with addictions seen with teenagers, betting can plague the lives of teens but the highs prevent them from seeing so until it is too late. Betting often becomes a daily part of their lives where bettors feel a need to throw money on games everyday searching for this high that they get from winning. As this addiction develops it grows from games they are watching, to games they can’t watch, and to foreign leagues and sports they know nothing about. An anonymous senior tells me that he would find himself “betting on foreign basketball games in class in order to place bets during the day.” While the prospects of having friends right there to cheer the game, there is very obvious risk wagering money on games one knows nothing about.
Once Monday comes around and their money is due to their bookies, the idea of “scumming” spurs. Scumming is when either the bettor or bookie does not pay the money owed to the other party; and since it is an illegal endeavor for both parties, there is nothing but threats made.
Sports gambling is an addiction like any drug or alcohol abuse, meaning it should be treated as such. Teenagers are losing an abundance of money through this issue and also learning poor discipline through the practice of “scumming”. Schools in the county should be aware of this issue and doing their best to help, the way they would with mental health issues. It should be treated this way because ultimately gambling induces large amounts of stress on these teenagers, and it could be avoided or dealt with.
*If reading this you have become self aware of any issues you may have, please contact the National Problem Gambling Helpline Network (1-800-522-4700).